Less than a week after I turned 16, I was hired to work at a movie theater.
The company culture, when I started, was highly coordinated and customer-serving. Nathan from Corporate would come to our particular theater with some regularity, making the four hour trip about once a month. He would drill us on various aspects of our given tasks. He was acculturating us to the ethos of the owner, which was to ensure an old-time theater experience with customer satisfaction at the heart.
I vividly remember him explaining to me the value of customer service, that it meant to please and serve the customer by your accorded role, and that conflict resolution should center around the dignity of the theater’s reputation.
Looking back, more than 20 years later, I am so glad that Nathan took an extended amount of time to explain to me (and others) the finer points of customer service. I believe he had a business degree from a non-liberal college. He truly cared about the end product of the theater experience. He was a good hire. He moved on to some other higher position at a bigger company, a year after I was hired on, and the company culture sagged in his absence. Some effete man was brought in to his place and soon enough there was petty bickering between the floor staff and management. Flirtations and relationships developed where they shouldn’t have. There were complaints about pay. The business lurched this way and that in an unconscious daze, each employee not able to pinpoint what exactly had gone awry nor exactly caring since left to their own devices. Nathan had helmed our operation with a seriousness and competence that could not easily be reproduced.
Serving others is not some lowly, submissive posture. In fact, it is the opposite. To lift others up with your grace and poise, you must be lifted up yourself first. Quality assurance meant something once, in this country. I would like to see it mean something again. Until then, I am the keeper of the flame.